The Bajaj Auto-Kawasaki bond, that has been going strong for three decades, is set for a strategic shift. For the first time since the Bajaj and Kawasaki jointly entered the Indian market to sell the Kawasaki range of Ninja bikes, Kawasaki will be riding solo in the Indian market.
Kawasaki has also moved the assembly operations of the Ninja range of bikes into its 100% subsidiary, India Kawasaki Motors, which is the Indian arm of Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Japan, and was set up in July 2010.
IKM deputy MD Shigeto Nishikawa said they will handle the manufacturing and marketing of the Ninja bikes. They have created a new factory in the Bajaj Auto Akurdi campus on 10,000 square metre area for assembling 5,000 units a year using completely knocked down (CKD) kits.
“We have capacity to assemble any model here and we expect to build around 1,500 to 2,000 vehicles a year,” Nishikawa said. “We will be marketing the superbikes ourselves but the relationship will continue as before,” IKM MD Yuji Horiuchi said while launching the Ninja ZX-14R and Ninja ZX-10R superbikes in Pune on Wednesday.
The Ninja ZX-14R is priced at R16.90 lakh while ZX-10R comes for R15.70 lakh and will come as CBUs to India from the Kawasaki Thailand plant and the company hopes to sell 100 units a year. IKM will handle the superbikes in the 1,000 cc to 1,600 cc category on its own, Horiuchi said.
“We have had several talks with Bajaj Auto. These two bikes need special skill and technique and the size of this business is very niche and different. Many digits are missing compared to the commuter bikes. So the business strategy is different from the existing business,” Nishikawa explained the reasons for the solo ride. This is a niche market selling 400 vehicles a year but growing at 30% and Kawasaki wants a 20% share of this market by 2015, he said. As of now these bikes will only be launched in Maharashtra and national roll out will depend on the response.
Bajaj Auto was assembling the Ninja 300 cc and 650 cc bikes at the Chakan plant. This operation will now shift to the new Akurdi plant of Kawasaki.
Similarly, Bajaj was selling the Ninja bikes through the Probiking Showroom network. While these two bikes, 300 cc and 650 cc will continue to be vended through the Bajaj Probiking network, Kawasaki will be the exclusive distributor and seller of the newly launched Ninja ZX-14R and Ninja ZX-10R and will also sell the 300 cc and 650 cc bikes.
“The Bajaj-Kawasaki links will continue as this is just a change in the paradigm,” said
S Ravikumar, president, business development and assurance). The Kawasaki plant is housed at the Akurdi plant of Bajaj Auto and this shift took place last month, says Ravikumar. India Kawasaki will also set up their first independent showroom at a Planet Bajaj in Pune, where the Bajaj Auto company showroom is located.
While many Indo-Japanese ventures have fallen by the wayside in the two-wheeler business, the Bajaj-Kawasaki partnership had endured. TVS and Suzuki split, Yamaha and Escorts parted ways. Honda first dumped Kinetic Motors and then split with Honda indicating an end of the Ind-Japanese two-wheeler JV era.
Ravikumar dispelled any talk of this being a sign of the tie-up ending. He said the Kawasaki-Bajaj is being strengthened overseas with Kawasaki taking over the Indonesian motorcycle operations of Bajaj Auto.
Bajaj ended its solo run in Indonesia after it ended its independent foray into that market. They are now selling the Kawasaki Bajaj badged Pulsar through the Kawasaki network, Ravikumar said. They duo had a good run in Philippines. Now the duo is getting ready to do the same in Brazil, Ravikumar said to indicate that their partnership was still going strong.
*Bajaj Auto was assembling the Ninja 300 cc and 650 cc bikes at the Chakan plant. This operation will now shift to the new Akurdi plant of Kawasaki
* Kawasaki will be the exclusive distributor and seller of the newly launched Ninja ZX-14R and Ninja ZX-10R and will also sell the 300 cc and 650 cc bikes